23/03/20215 Minutes

Connecting Africa to Broadband – Where You Need It, When You Need It

In this two-hour webinar, the programme opened with an introduction from the host, GVF, followed by Intelsat welcoming remarks and keynote address.

A panel discussion session followed, Connecting Africa to Broadband: A Roadmap for Inclusive Growth, which began by referencing three key points from the World Bank:

  • To achieve universal, affordable and good quality Internet access for 1.1bn people in Africa by 2030 requires an investment of US$100bn;
  • For the most part, universal access to broadband connectivity is an infrastructure challenge with nearly 80 per cent of all required investments directly tied to the need to roll out and maintain broadband networks;
  • The impact of the pandemic on communication and connectivity has been felt within the ecosystem surrounding the internet and communications technology, increasing demand and highlighting the need to leverage tools and innovative strategies to survive and thrive.

Four expert panellists with Liquid Satellite, Orange DRC, Safaricom, and Vodacom Mozambique, in discussion with GVF, shared their views on what it takes to accelerate the deployment of universal, reliable, and affordable broadband networks in Africa, and to build innovative solutions to provide “always-on” connectivity enabling companies and organisations to operate with confidence in even the most remote or challenging locations.

Wide ranging questions were addressed, including:

  • What in Universal Access strategies to enable the bridging of Africa’s Digital Divide has failed to work in the past, and what is new about the different approaches being proposed today?
  • In what ways and with what effects has the COVID-19 pandemic magnified the continent’s lack of broadband connectivity progress and the more urgent need for that progress?
  • What are the benefits related to including satellite-based solutions for MNO network planning strategy, especially that for covering rural areas?
  • How does satellite fit with the CAPEX and OPEX demands of MNOs in terms of keeping costs to customers low?
  • What are the barriers to advancing satellite solutions in Africa when it comes to the ground segment?
  • Expansion of network access has challenges, terrestrial infrastructure has limitations, so how does an MNO overcome the challenges of expanding network coverage in general, and during times of natural disaster crisis, in particular, using satellite?
  • When MNOs consider what role satellites should play in their networks have high-throughput satellites (HTS), with slashed bandwidth costs and significantly increased capacity, altered the business equation in satellite’s favour?
  • What are some of the ways an MNO can address mobile device and service plan affordability issues in remote rural areas, and how is a balance drawn between customer affordability and company revenue growth and RoI?

Moving from panel discussion to Fireside Chat: Connectivity Imagined… Where You Need It, When You Need It, between between Intelsat, its partner TinSky Connect, and GVF, the conversation unpacked the Intelsat response to the growing need for better connectivity on the move in Africa through its FlexMove product. As backdrop to the chat it was acknowledged that industries all over the continent depend on reliable communications to keep them connected everywhere they do business. Users in mining, rail, oil and gas, first responders, civil defence, and humanitarian aid are discovering innovative ways to optimise their operations in hard-to-reach locations or where other networks simply don’t exist. Allowing people to connect to the internet, private data networks and cloud services from virtually anywhere in the world, including while on-the-move, and not compromise on the speed and convenience can sometimes be a challenge.

Discussion points included: Data demand growth for companies with a mobile footprint and how satellite enhances their ability to deliver on expectations; How satellite solutions fit into larger connectivity strategies and how companies with multiple operational sites balance using FlexMove with their existing cellular connectivity network; Why customers consider FlexMove over other satellite options such as BGAN, and build a business case to justify investment in FlexMove, with reference to CAPEX, OPEX and TCO requirements; and, The verticals and locations offering the biggest opportunity to create value to the end-users in leveraging FlexMove.

An audience Q&A session and closing remarks from Intelsat brought the session to its “live” close. However, if you missed it, you haven’t missed out because a recording of the entire webinar is available here in all three of the live session languages, English, French, and Portuguese.